Priti Patel signals crackdown on illegal migrants crossing Channel

Priti Patel signals fresh crackdown on illegal migrants crossing the English Channel as she also vows to tackle ‘vexatious’ asylum claims

  • Home Secretary conceded there has been a spike in English Channel activity 
  • She said UK is working with France on new system to return illegal migrants 
  • She also vowed a crackdown on ‘vexatious’ immigration and asylum claims 

Priti Patel today signalled a fresh crackdown on illegal migrants crossing the English Channel as she also vowed to tackle ‘vexatious’ asylum claims. 

The Home Secretary conceded that there are currently higher numbers of people trying to cross the stretch of water. 

But she said she is working to agree a scheme with Paris which would allow Britain to return illegal migrants to France after they have come ashore in the UK or if they are picked up while at sea. 

She also vowed to focus Home Office efforts on combatting ‘vexatious methods’ and ‘vexatious claims’ around illegal immigration and asylum. 

Priti Patel today told the Home Affairs Select Committee that the Home Office is trying to combat ‘vexatious’ asylum claims

A Dungeness lifeboat is pictured on April 25 after picking up an inflatable dinghy which is thought to have been used to carry migrants across the English Channel 

Appearing in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee today, Ms Patel was asked by Tory MP Tim Loughton why there had been an apparent ‘spike’ in people trying to cross the Channel.

He asked if it was because France had eased off surveillance and patrols because of the coronavirus crisis. 

Ms Patel said that was not the case but conceded it is a ‘very, very difficult area’ at the moment as she said illegal migrants were also trying to cross to the UK from Belgium.

‘We have seen greater dispersal across the French coast and we are seeing this now across the Belgian coast. 

‘What has happened in France, all credit to the French actually who like we are, despite lockdown and despite all the pressures with coronavirus, are deploying all sorts of activity and resources basically in trying to deter. 

‘So there is now 24/7 coverage on the beaches of northern France. We are using drones, we are using more detections, we are using ANPR. 

‘The fact of the matter is, not withstanding these French patrols, these extra patrols on French beaches and using specialist vehicles for detection, too many are getting through.’ 

Ms Patel said that while there are currently more people trying to make the journey there were also ‘extraordinary numbers’ in terms of ongoing investigations and convictions. 

Asked by Mr Loughton if the UK is trying to strike an agreement with France which would allow for the return of illegal migrants, Ms Patel said: ‘There is a lot of work taking place. We have put forward some measures. 

‘We are doing this directly through our embassy in Paris as well but I am doing it directly with my counterpart in France around returns and returns at sea which is exactly the point you are making and referring to. 

‘We are also going to go further than that as well, very much looking at, and this is a UK policy area not just with the Home Office but the Ministry of Justice, but looking at some of the vexatious methods that are being used. 

‘The vexatious claims around illegal immigration and asylum claims that come forward with many of these illegal migrant activities too.’ 

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